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Divorce! The Musical

A musical about divorce sounds just awful, doesn't it? Well, this production proves that in the right hands, even cauliflower can be turned into art. The exclamation point in the title is our first clue that this show has a self-aware sense of humor. It also has joyful energy and surprising tenderness. Erin Kamler's book follows a couple from "I do" to their last lingering look; Kamler's score is cohesive and interesting and culminates in a sparkling song-and-dance number that turns marital mediation into a game show where no one quite wins.

Penny and Rich -- correct, the names are symbolic -- married in haste and have been repenting for four years. Now he wants a child; she's working on her acting career. Why they didn't discuss this before wedding, we won't ask. Lowe Taylor and Rick Segall assay the couple. Segall has matinee-idol looks, yet he sings expertly and dances with wonderfully clean lines and appealing musicality. Taylor is a perky redhead with a pretty but comedically malleable face; she delivers songs with all due earnestness yet charming humor, and she too is a skilled mover.

Three terrific performers play the various characters in a divorcing couple's lives. Gabrielle Wagner and Leslie Stevens portray dueling lawyers, Gregory Franklin plays the showman mediator, in a rather horrifying subplot involving the machinations of family law. The three then play therapists, parents, friends, and, ugh, dates.

Music director David O pulls maximum effect from the singers and from the three-piece combo. But the hero here is Rick Sparks, who stages and directs with great thought to narrative and the audience's experience, and whose choreography is delightful and looks good on all the performers. Danny Cistone's set makes magic on the relatively small stage; Jeremy Pivnick's lighting design effectively sets mood and tone, and Denitsa Bliznakova's costumes reveal much about the characters while allowing for the quickest of changes.

Here are two practical suggestions: See this show on a first date. But don't see it if you're expecting Beckett. Although even he would probably appreciate these gentle observations on the human condition.

Presented by Rick Culbertson in association with Lynn Marks at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood.

Feb. 5–Mar. 29. Thur.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.

(323) 960-1056 or Divorce! The Musical

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